Help with Bills for Farmhouses (part 1)
Published November 22, 2020
Hello! Thank you for watching this brief segment to learn about help with utility bills. My name is Joel Haskard and I am with the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs). This segment is a joint effort between the CERTS, the Minnesota Farmers Union, and the Citizens Utility Board of Minnesota.
If you are struggling to keep up with your bills, the first step is to find out if you are eligible for a program called Energy Assistance. Energy Assistance is a federal program administered by the state and local providers. Eligibility is based on income and household size. Here is a table that shows the income guidelines for the 2020-2021 heating season (for current income guidelines visit the Department of Commerce webpage).
To apply, contact your local provider, typically a Community Action Partnership Agency. Your local provider can be identified by calling 1-800-657-3710. We recognize that calculating farm income is not always straightforward in terms of applying for these types of programs. Typically you can use your 1040 tax form. If that isn’t available, the Energy Assistance Program will ask you for your total gross farm income and then deduct 50 percent as expenses and use the remaining 50 percent to calculate income. Of note for those receiving COVID-related funding, the Energy Assistance Program does not count the Payment Protection Program (PPP) as income but does count the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) as income. However, if the farmer provides their 1040 to document their income, PPP and CFAP will not be a factor.
If you qualify for Energy Assistance, it can be used to cover residential heating and electricity expenses, including delivered fuels. Grants are made directly to your utility provider or delivered fuel company.
Other forms of assistance
Those needing additional financial support have a variety of options to consider including County based financial assistance, requesting help from the Salvation Army and local social service organizations. Sometimes local houses of worship will have emergency funds available to community members.
If you are eligible for energy assistance, it can open the door to other programs. Some utilities have additional discounts on your energy expense that are based on your income. Inquire with your utility to find out more. Examples include Minnesota Power, Xcel, CenterPoint, Minnesota Energy Resources and more.
Eligibility for Energy Assistance means you can request weatherization assistance. These programs will help make your home more energy efficient and include improvements such as additional insulation and new furnaces or water heaters. These types of improvements will help you use less energy and save money over time. Talk to the agency that administers your local energy assistance program and your utility about these options. Households who don’t meet income guidelines can still take advantage of utility rebates that bring down the cost of improvements. Anytime you are thinking about energy efficiency projects, check to see what rebates or programs are available.
Understanding Your Bill
If you have concerns about your energy bills, the Citizens Utility Board of Minnesota is a great resource. They provide free customized bill consultations for Minnesota consumers. They can help you understand all the line items on your bills and provide ideas of ways to reduce your bills and identify programs or rebates that could benefit your household. Consultations take just 30 minutes and are available via phone or video conferencing. Call 651-300-4701 ext. 2 to set up an appointment or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
On behalf of CERTS, Minnesota Farmers Union and the Citizens Utility Board, thank you for tuning in for this segment on Help with Your Bills! Look for additional segments in the near future.